Wrangler Racing Aces Blog

Stakes bonanza closes out Prairie Meadows meet.

Stakes bonanza closes out Prairie Meadows meet.

Manny Campos.
PHOTO: Coady Photography

Trainer Manny Campos Proves Quick Study
By John Hernandez

A little over 12 months ago, when trainer Manny Mojica-Campos showed up at the Prairie Meadows racing office, he didn’t have a single horsemen’s license to his name.

What he did have was an unwavering desire to move from breaking and training horses on the farm to saddling Quarter Horses at the racetrack, and the backing of businessman and equine enthusiast Tom Scheckel, who has burst on the scene as the leading owner at Prairie Meadows for the last two seasons.

“Mr. Scheckel wanted me to come to work at his farm,” Campos recalled. “But I really wanted to train racehorses at the track!

“He told me, early in 2015, that if I could earn my trainer’s license, he’d give me some race horses to train,” the affable young conditioner added. “So I came to Prairie Meadows, got licensed as a groom, then as a gallop boy, and ultimately – by the start of the 2015 Quarter Horse season – as a trainer.”

Campos had a lot to learn about life at the racetrack that initial season. His first starter, Goin Down Sweet, finished last on the first day of the meet. And ditto for Watch My Wallet Loto, one of his current stable stars, last in a field of 10, one week later.

It took Campos until the final weekend of the 2015 season to saddle a winner, but he did it twice in two days, with Oak Tree Coed on October 8 and Watch My Wallet Loto on October 9.

This season, Campos wasted no time in sending out a winner. Ferrari James, the only three-time winner at Prairie Meadows so far this season, won a trial for the Iowa Double Gold Derby on the first day of the 2016 meet, outrunning seven rivals including “horse for the course” The Fiscal Cliff.

The 3-year-old son of Ivory James out of Ferrari Fast Prize by Mr Jess Perry validated that effort with a late-charging repeat win over The Fiscal Cliff in the finals of the $84,179 Iowa Double Gold Derby (R) on September 3.

Then, on September 30, Ferrari James scored again in a trial for the $108,497 Altoona Derby, stamping himself as the fastest qualifier for this Saturday’s “money run” with a time of :19.697 for 400 yards.

“He’s a real pro,” Campos said of Ferrari James. “He’s easy to train, easy to manage in the barn, and he knows what to do every step of the way from galloping, to working out, to race day.”

“I expect him to run well again,” said the trainer, who also qualified Macgyver Moonflash to the race. “He’s done so well this season and he’s coming into this race real sharp.”

Campos increased his victory count for the current Prairie Meadows season to 10 when Dash For Number One won the final race of the day on Sunday October 9.

Two of those wins have come from Watch My Wallet Loto, who qualified to Saturday’s Polk County Derby with the fifth fastest time of :19.869 for 400 yards.

“He’s won his only two starts this season, an allowance race and the derby trial,” Campos noted. “He ran six times last season before he finally won, so I’m thrilled with what he’s shown us so far this meet in just a couple of tries.”

It’s all come quickly for Campos, who sometimes has to take a deep breath and pause when he considers how quickly and successfully his so far brief training career has developed.

“I was the new kid in town last season,” he remembered. “People weren’t sure who I was and what I could do. I had to prove myself to the horsemen, the stewards, the starter, the gate crew, and everyone else. Now, I feel like I belong here.”

Campos offered this bit of advice for any young aspiring trainer who is starting from the ground floor. “If you want it, work hard, learn everything about the business, and you can make it!”

Prairie Meadows closes its
season with a full card of

Duel of Two "Tom's" in Polk County Derby
By Martha Claussen

The live Quarter Horse racing season at Prairie Meadows concludes October 15 with an "all stakes" finale. Eight championships will be decided Saturday afternoon, including the $157, 288 Jim Badger Futurity and the $230,310 Valley Junction Futurity.

Another feature which should be a highly competitive event is the $126,128 Polk County Derby, which will run as race four. Tom Lepic's homebred The Fiscal Cliff, a colt by PYC Paint Your Wagon out of the Shazoom mare Signs Zoomer, is the one to beat. He won both the Jim Bader and Iowa Double Gold Futurity last year, and has run first or second in six of his seven starts as a 3-year-old. Trained by Kasey Willis, he posted the fastest qualifying time of :19.666 in trials on October 1, and will be ridden by Cesar Gomez. The Fiscal Cliff is a logical choice for the Polk County Derby, but will go off at a very short price.

Lepic, the outgoing and affable Iowa Quarter Horse supporter, is always encouraging new owners and succeeded in convincing Thomas Scheckel to join the ranks.  Scheckel, a Bellevue, Iowa businessman was a longtime exhibitor and breeder of top AQHA halter horses. Lepic not only convinced Scheckel to get involved in racing, he enlisted him as a director of the Iowa Quarter Horse Association. 

On Saturday, their 3-year-olds will face off as Scheckel owns There Goes My Wallet. Also trained by Willis, There Goes My Wallet ran a close second to AJs High, the sixth-ranked older horse in the AQHA Racing-Horseplayernow.com National Poll, in the Adequan Canterbury Derby Challenge on July 17.  He will be ridden by Jorge Torres, who has a huge lead in the jockey standings heading into the final week.

Scheckel also owns Watch My Wallet Loto. While this gelding does not have the stakes credentials of others in this field, it's hard to argue with his success this year as he goes for his fourth consecutive win. And good for Manny Campos!

I'll round out my top four with Baja Blues Girl, a filly by Jess Louisiana Blue. Stormy Smith and trainer Charley Hunt have teamed up on many stakes winners at Prairie Meadows. She was the seventh-fastest qualifier in trials, but appears capable of a top four placement in this derby. 

Martha Claussen's Top Four Selections:
#7 The Fiscal Cliff
#9  There Goes My Wallet
#2  Watch My Wallet Loto
#1  Baja Blues Girl


Wrangler Racing Aces in October

Visit the Q-Racing Aces page on Facebook or follow them @HorseRacingAces on Twitter for timely updates on Quarter Horse racing across North America. The Wrangler Racing Aces are following the horses, jockeys, trainers and milestones at Los Alamitos, Ajax Downs, Lone Star Park, Will Rogers Downs, Indiana Grand, Evangeline Downs and Zia Park.

AQHA News and information is a service of the American Quarter Horse Association. For more news and information, follow @AQHARacing on Twitter, “like” Q-Racing on Facebook and visit www.aqharacing.com.